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From November 16-18, 2012, thousands of human rights activists, torture survivors, anti-war veterans, students, families, union workers, nuns, artists, and others will converge at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, to call on the Obama administration to end the U.S. militarization of the Americas, and to close the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC)! Fore more information visit SOAW.org
Here's a list of some of the featured speakers and musicians:
Father Melo, a Jesuit priest and radio host, condemned the SOA graduate-led military coup against the democratically elected Honduran government in 2009 from the start. As a result, his radio station was occupied by the military following the coup and he began receiving death threats. The killing in Honduras continues. Just last Sunday, three rural laborers were killed amid an ongoing conflict over land in the Bajo Aguán region on Honduras’ Caribbean coast.
Father Roy Bourgeois, M.M.
Adriana is a life-long advocate for human rights and a survivor of the war in Guatemala. After Guatemalan security forces killed one of her brothers and disappeared six members of her family, among them her father, her 10 and 9 year old daughters, and her 18-month old sister, Adriana and her two surviving daughters fled their native country and arrived in the US in 1985.
Father Roy has been a priest for 38 years. He founded SOA Watch in 1990 after witnessing the killings of thousands in Central America in the 1980's. Father Roy's conscious awakening and calling to priesthood happened immediately after his experience serving in Vietnam. He has spent four years in prison for nonviolent protests against the SOA.
Theresa Cusimano and Ed Kinane, former SOA Watch Prisoners of Conscience
300 SOA Watch activists have been sentenced to prison and probation for nonviolent resistance actions to expose the horrors of the SOA and to express solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Latin America.
Joe Jencks is an international touring performer, songwriter, entertainer, and educator, based in Chicago, Illinois. From venues like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, to coffee houses, festivals, spiritual communities, and schools, Joe Jencks has spent the last 12 years touring full time.
Colonel Ann Wright
Ann Wright is a former United States Army colonel and retired official of the U.S. State Department, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand people during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She is most noted for having been one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
U.S. military veterans are on the forefront of the struggle to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. Veterans have fasted, organized, marched, hung uniforms and other military items on the fence, crossed the line to carry the protest onto the Fort Benning military base, and served jail time.
Maria Victoria Batista
Maria will address the situation of U.S. militarization in the Dominican Republic, especially in regards to the Saona Island, where the U.S. Southern Command is planning to build a naval base.
Omari Fox, New Danger Collective - the New Danger Movement is a play on the historical identification of the perceived "threat" that artists, thinkers, and change agents pose to the system.
Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a community-based worker organization whose members are largely Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout Florida.
Charlie is a musical storyteller and political satirist, who sings and writes about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.
Medea Benjamin is a cofounder of both CODEPINK and the international human rights organization Global Exchange. She has been an advocate for social justice for more than 30 years. Benjamin is the author of the book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, and she has been campaigning to get lethal drones out of the hands of the CIA. Predator drones from the war in Afghanistan are being transferred to the control of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) for use in its operations in Latin America. As Fort Benning is scheduled to become a drone base, organizing against drones is picking up around the country.
Brother Domingo Solis is a Franciscan friar and currently the director of the Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in El Salvador. JPIC is an organization of Franciscans whose mission is to care for the poor and marginalized, advocate for human rights, be peacemakers and respect and care for all of creation. In El Salvador, JPIC is an active member of the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining (the Mesa) and has supported the struggle for a complete ban on all metallic mining in the country. As part of the Mesa, Brother Domingo has helped organize protests of thousands of people demanding stricter domestic environmental regulations, has educated parishes and communities around the dangers of mining, and has demanded the respect for the human rights of environmental activists.
Sarab Shada is a student from Iraq, who is currently studying at Loyola University Chicago through the Iraqi Student Project.
SOA Watch Legislative Working Group
SOA Watch Labor Caucus - Union organizers are among the primary targets of SOA violence in Latin America. SOA graduates have been directly responsible for the slaying of striking workers and the killing of union organizers. The SOA torture manuals identified union organizers as potential subversives and targets. Union solidarity means for the labor caucus that we need to speak up and stop the killing.
The SOA Watch Legislative Working group will give an update about our White House meeting and legislation that will be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to suspend operations at the SOA/ WHINSEC and to investigate the links between U.S. foreign military training and human rights abuses in Latin America.
Yolanda Oquelí is an anti-mining activist, community leader, and human rights defender in Guatemala. She has been at the forefront of a nonviolent resistance to mining operations in the farming communities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc. On June 30th she survived an assassination attempt, and to this day carries a bullet lodged near her spine.
Jon Fromer and Francisco Herrera
Francisco's songs capture the vitality of the immigrant experience, stories of faith, love and struggle.
Jon Fromer is an award-winning singer/songwriter whose music is a special blend of folk, blues and country.
Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan (MEChA)
MEChA is a student organization that promotes higher education, cultura, and historia. MEChA was founded on the principles of self-determination for the liberation of our people. We believe that political involvement and education is the avenue for change in our society.
Francia Marquez is a leader from the Afro-Colombian gold-mining community of La Toma in southwestern Colombia. Home to 1,052 families, La Toma was founded by runaway slaves in 1636, and since then the community has struggled against political, economic and armed forces looking to control their lands and resources. Francia makes up part of this struggle. Through her work as a community leader and as part of Procesos de Comunidades Negras (PCN), she has striven to protect La Toma's ancestral lands from plunder, violence and dispossession, despite being identified as military target by paramilitary groups and receiving death threats that seek to drive her off this land.
Son del Centro
Son del Centro is a group of companeros and camaradas who are students, musicians, activists, dancers, friends and organizers from various parts of Santa Ana, California. The group was formed to create a space for youth to explore their traditions, creativity and consciousness, through son jarocho music.
Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP passed a national resolution in 1998, calling for the closure of the SOA.
emma's revolution is the duo of award-winning activist musicians, Pat Humphries & Sandy O. Called “Inspiring, gusty and rockin’”, the duo is celebrating the release of their third cd, "Revolutions Per Minute", an electrifying soundscape of “rousing and soulful" songs of social conscience, in settings from intimate acoustic to full-on funk.
Luis Roberto Zamora Bolaños is a young Costa Rican attorney who has brought a law suit to the Costa Rican government, challenging the decision of President Arias of authorizing military training for Costa Rican civilian police to study at the School of the Americas (WHINSEC); the case is pending at the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. Previously, he challenged president Pacheco's decision of supporting the US-UK led aggression on Iraq.
Son Altepee is a traditional string band from Veracruz, Mexico. Son Altepee make their own instruments, repair instruments, teach string music, contribute to traditional community celebrations, build community with elders and youth in several communities throughout southern Veracruz, and they support several struggles for liberation and self-determination in Veracruz and throughout Mexico.
Martin Almada is a Paraguayan educator who was imprisoned under the regime of Alfredo Stroessner. His wife died of a heart attack after being forced to hear through a telephone her husband's cries as he was tortured. After a campaign by Amnesty International, Almada was released. He later uncovered the Terror Archives, a set of file describing the fates of thousands of Latin Americans who had been secretly kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, under Operation Condor.
Mario represents the Illinois Coalition Against Torture (ICAT). He is a torture survivor from Chile, tortured by two officers from the Chilean Army, who were trained at the SOA.
Rebel Diaz is a political hip hop duo out of the Bronx, New York and Chicago, IL consisting of the Chilean brothers Rodrigo Venegas (known as RodStarz) and Gonzalo Venegas (known as G1). Rebel Diaz uses their music as an organizing tool and to spread knowledge about injustice.
Aly Wane and Jonathan Perez
Undocumented activist from New York and California. In the past two years, undocumented students and their allies have organized some of the largest mass gatherings in the country. There has been a preponderance of undocumented students "coming out," announcing that they are "undocumented and unafraid." Some have taken an even greater risk by engaging in acts of civil resistance.
Belen was the youngest of 55 family members of victims of Mexico's drug war on the Mexican Caravan for Peace and Justice. The caravan brought these courageous voices to over 30 US cities this summer, sharing the tragic consequences of a drug war that starts in the US, and that must also be stopped from the US. Belen's brother disappeared while driving from Mexico to the border, while conversing on his cell phone with his mother in Los Angeles. On the last visit of the Caravan to Washington, Belen shared: "Fear is the oldest weapon that has been used by government to control you, but when someone is taken from you who you didn't realize meant so much to you, your consciousness is elevated. ...We don't want you to feel sorry for us, ...You, who are looking from the other side, I was once there. I hope that you join us."
Juan Carlos Trujillo Herrera and Rafael Trujillo Herrera
Juan Carlos and Rafael are survivors of the U.S. sponsored and SOA fueled "Drug War" in Mexico.
Colleen Kattau and Elise Witt
Elise is a singer who was born in Switzerland, raised in North Carolina and since 1977 has made her home in Atlanta, Georgia. Colleen performs progressive folk rock colored w/ south of the border beats and socio-enviro-fem conscious compositions.
Pageant with the Puppetistas
Artists are a tremendously important part of the movement to close the School of the Americas. The creatively minded inspire the campaign. Art and activism is an effective combination that is able to reach people on a different level and moves them to take action.
Xochitl Espinosa, National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC)
The National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC) seeks to improve the quality of life for Latinos and Latino immigrants in their communities both in the United States and in countries of origin. NALACC seeks to build transnational leadership capacity and increase immigrant civic participation, so that immigrants can advocate effectively for public policies that address the root causes of migration, as well as addressing the challenges faced by immigrants in the United States. NALACC aspires to become an entity recognized for its ability to articulate the challenges faced by transnational immigrant communities, as well as viable solutions to those challenges.
Nuns at the Gates
Every hour of each day, Catholic Sisters stand in solidarity with all who face repression and violence, and we confront injustice and systems that cause suffering.
Silvia Brandon Pérez
Silvia is a singer and a member of the SOA Watch Bilingual Space Working Group
Poem by Langston Hughes, the American poet and social activist, who was one of the earliest innovators of the literary art form jazz poetry. The poem will be read by Pedro-Jesus Romero-Menendez
Mike is a socially conscious singer song-writer and community leader. He leads crusades against local and global economic injustice, rallying people with his music to take action. His sound and lyrics are influenced by his musical heroes Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Jackson Browne and Bruce Cockburn.
Dan is currently a minister at Wellington Avenue UCC in Chicago. During the 1980´s, Rev. Dale and his family served as missionaries in El Salvador during that country´s civil war. Working with the Chicago Religious Task Force on Central America, Rev. Dale played a central role in creating the National Sanctuary Movement for refugees fleeing the U.S.-sponsored wars against the poor in Central America.
For more information about hotels, the rideboard and directions, workshops and concerts, the schedule of events, and more, visit SOAW.org
To make a donation to support the mobilization efforts for the November Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, visit SOAW.org/donate